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Seppuku: A History of Samurai Suicide (Andrew Rankin)

The tradition of seppuku - Japanese ritual suicide by cutting the stomach, sometimes referred to as hara-kiri - spans a millennium. Samurai revered seppuku as the most honorable form of death. Here, for the first time in English, is a book that charts the history of samurai suicide from antiquity to modern times. Andrew Rankin traces the origins of seppuku in ancient myth, and guides us from the death of legendary warrior Minamoto no Tametomo in 1170 to the celebrated ritual suicide of General Nogi Maresuke in 1912. In between are countless examples of heroic courage, loyalty, and sacrifice.

Quoting from many previously untranslated sources, including battle chronicles, execution handbooks, private samurai documents, and rare eyewitness reports, this book is divided into four basic sections: "History to 1600" looks at cases of ritual suicide taken from historical texts from the 8th to the 17th century. "The Seppuku Ritual" draws on previously untranslated seppuku manuals from the 18th and 19th centuries to explain the correct procedure and etiquette, as well as the different stomach-cutting procedures, types of swords, attire, location, and even the refreshments served at the seppuku ceremony. "History after 1600" focuses on famed cases up to and including the 20th century, and "Paradigms" offers a selection of short quotations from authors and commentators down the centuries that sum up Japanese and non-Japanese attitudes to seppuku.

Written by Andrew Rankin.

 

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